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Ask PFW: Winnin' ain't easy

With the Patriots struggling to find consistency through the first three weeks, New England fans have plenty of questions and concerns to fill out this week's unsettled edition Ask PFW.


Can anyone explain to me why the Patriots couldn't cough up $2 million for Emmanuel Sanders when they had the chance, but found the money to give Danny Amendola $5 million!!??!!? We already had Edelman, and Sanders offers just as much on special teams and can play deep and outside.
Nick Cabrera

It's certainly not a case of couldn't, more an example of wouldn't or simply were trying to frugally manipulate the restricted free agent market. And just for clarification, the Patriots signed Sanders to a $2.5 million restricted free agent offer sheet. Remember, though, at the time Edelman had yet to become a key part of the offense and wasn't even assured a spot on the roster. Amendola, not Edelman, was the planned replacement for the loss of Wes Welker. Certainly with the perspective of hindsight the Patriots didn't manage the overhaul at the wide receiver position in the spring of 2013 as well as might have been hoped. That's not to say I'm giving up on the likes of Amendola or Aaron Dobson, but to this point both have been pretty disappointing.
Andy Hart


Hello PFW Writers! Since 2007 -- when the Patriots rewrote the record book in so many ways -- anything less than crushing victory after crushing victory results in fan frustration and the press constantly asking players and coaches "what's wrong?" I was wondering, in your opinion, how much this negativity (brought on, no doubt by high hopes and expectations) affects the players and coaches... and if they would appreciate knowing that their fans have complete faith in them? (Those booing-sounds at Gillette Sunday were actually Pats faithful saying, "We know you can do it.") Keep it up team!
*Mark Aiken, Vermont

One of the major sayings of the Patriots under Bill Belichick is "Ignore the noise." I think the team does a pretty good job of that and I don't think the questions or lack of satisfaction early in the season is detrimental to the team. Belichick himself is all about humble pie and not all that big on positive reinforcement. I don't think too many people hold his team to a higher standard or expectation than he does. I would put Tom Brady in the same boat. He knows what it takes to win and succeed in the NFL and I think that's why you've seen him take the recent ugly wins in stride for what they were. Expectations are high in New England, including inside Gillette Stadium.
Andy Hart

Two parts - if Bryan Stork won the award for best center in the nation, why did he drop to the 4th round? Doesn't that kind of award merit a much higher draft spot? Second - I think the biggest issue the Patriots have is they've been the hunted for so long, everybody circles NE on their calendar as a big game and comes in emotionally charged for it. Where for NE it's harder to match that intensity from week to week and can make them look flatter than they would like. Maybe the short term focus they spoke about during the dynasty years doesn't work as well with a younger team?
Tyler Hallet

In regards to Stork, the winner of the Rimington Award as college football's top center, it shows not only the perceived value of the position but also the difference between a very good college player and an elite NFL prospect. First, the center position is a rare one in the first round. Often the best prospect at that spot goes in the second round. Then you have to take into account production versus potential. Often times college award winners, including All-Americans, aren't the best prospects. Look at the case of SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam. He wasn't even considered the best pass rusher or defensive line prospect on his team last year, that was Panthers second-round pick Kony Ealy. Remember Patriots 2010 sixth-round pick Ted Larsen? You may not, and you may be surprised to know he also won the Rimington Award at N.C. State. As for your second question, there is no doubt that many teams still very much get up for playing the Patriots and use the game as a measuring stick. It's part of life as the top franchise in football for more than a decade. There is not much the Patriots can do about that, other than bring their best game and emotion on a weekly basis. It is what it is.
Andy Hart

Once again the OL had a poor performance. I'm wondering if the absence of the long time line coach- Donte Scarnecchia- known for his unique training techniques and coaching style, is having an effect because, it is not just the new and young players that are faltering but, the veterans also (Solder, Vollmer)? Does the new line coach - Google something employ any of Coach Scar's principles and philosophies or is he just doing his own thing? If so, his s#!* aint workin.
Markis Lamore

There is no doubt that the retirement of Scarnecchia is a part of the issues on the offensive line. He was considered one of the best assistants in the game and he brought clear continuity and a proven track record to the position. That said, Dave DeGuglielmo is using the same scheme and terminology. He may be putting his own spin on the coaching and some of the drills, but it's the same job and techniques that the players are being asked to fulfill. You are right, though, that veterans and young players alike have been struggling on the line early in the season. It's a group-wide issue that DeGuglielmo, the rest of the coaches and the players need to get cleaned up if the offense is going to improve in the coming weeks and months.
Andy Hart

Pats need to urgently trade their 4th round pick for some starter-quality O-lineman. Now, I know, you guys are often against the trades, but can that be done?
Ed T.

First, I'm not against trades. I don't think they are always the answer or the cure-all, but I never rule them out. And Belichick is among the most active in the game in working the trade market. Not sure why exactly you are focused simply on trading a fourth-round pick – although I'm guessing it's a reference to what the Patriots got in the trade for Logan Mankins. More often than not, the Patriots have been a team that's developed its offensive linemen and promoted from within. If that's not working this season, then a trade might be an option. I do, though, think it would be difficult for a veteran to come right in, learn the system and fit in seamlessly on the fly during the year. But what's going on right now isn't exactly getting the job done, so maybe a change would do some good.
Andy Hart

Is it too soon to have a panic attack? I want to trade a next year pick for Larry Fitzgerald. He'll put us over the top and the Cardinals might listen since he is due a king's ransom next year. While we're at it, may we add an OL for Brady and the RB's?
David Segarra, Glendale, New York

Much too soon. The Patriots are 2-1 through three weeks and tied atop the AFC East. They were the only team in the division to win last weekend. Take a deep breath. It will get better. A trade for Fitzgerald would certainly been a boon for the Patriots. But why would Arizona, looking to fight for a playoff spot in tough division, give up a key offensive player? It wouldn't make any sense, regardless of future financial considerations.
Andy Hart


Hello PFW, long time Patriots fan and PFW reader here, love to read it every week so keep up the good work. Do you think that the Patriots offense is just too complicated? Maybe if McDaniels simplified the offense we could get more production from our other receivers. Could be easier to game plan against but some production is better than no production. Thanks guys.*
*A.J. Arris

The complicated nature of the offense – which really comes down to sight adjustments and reading the secondary the same what the quarterback does – is a common topic when the Patriots struggle to throw the ball or develop receivers. I'm just not sure I buy it. The New England offense is the same as it's been since 2001. It's been very successful for the most part over the years. Many players have failed to pick it up, but just as many have found it pretty easy to work into. I can't see changing the scheme and forcing Brady to learn a new attack in his 15th season. It just doesn't make sense to me. I'm also not sold that the struggles are solely about players mentally struggling. At some point, shouldn't we ask if the complementary targets simply aren't good enough?
Andy Hart

I may be stating the obvious but it seems the offense is too one-dimensional and quite predictable. Why won't this team take a chance on [Richie] Incognito, he is a quality OG and a mauler and may bring some intensity to an offensive line that can't run or pass block. Maybe then we can have some offensive versatility.
David Gannon

It's weird, but the longer that Incognito is out of football due to his bullying scandal, the better he seems to get. People forget that he was a middling talent over his career, not some Logan Mankins-like perennial Pro Bowler. That he's been a problem on some level with every team he's ever played for. Why would you want to bring in that distraction and story, especially considering the Patriots have a first-year line coach and a lot of young players on the front. The group is searching for its leadership right now as well as its stride on the field. I don't think the aging Incognito would help that in any way.
Andy Hart

I'm a huge fan of you guys I read your articles all the time to stay informed about the Pats while I'm abroad. I live in Germany serving in the USAF. My question is: Although I thought Brady did a better job this week of spreading the ball working with what he's got, it was evident that it is still not adequate to win a SB. Do you see Belichick seeking outside help for the O-line, or the receiver corps moving forward through either trade or free agency (assuming there is any decent players available)? Gronk is knocking the rust off slowly, but surely, and Tyms will be eligible to play after KC. Tyms showed potential in preseason, but there is no telling he will be productive in the regular season, or even given a chance to play for that matter. Nate Solder is on a cold streak to say the least. In conclusion, the offense looks like it could use some major help. Do you think coach will try to resolve the issues from within, or look for some outside help (like two years ago when he brought in Talib for a last minute boost to the secondary)? Thank you!
Eric Ritchie

I think Belichick and Nick Caserio are always looking at ways to help the team and improve the talent. It's a never-ending process. That certainly could include a trade. The last two years the team has made a deal at the trading deadline to address a major need. Last year it was adding veteran defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga from the Eagles, in a move that didn't add much to a defensive front that was struggling to stop the run. Two years ago New England added Aqib Talib to help settle down a very suspect secondary and it worked out for a year-plus as the veteran corner was a key playmaker when healthy. While I'm not sure how realistic it is for Belichick to sign or trade for a player that would make a major impact on the offense right now, I'm also not sold that journeyman Brian Tyms is the savior some fans seem to think he is. The man is a great story but also a guy who's never done anything in the NFL. He didn't play or practice much with Brady this summer, if at all. So even if he's added to the roster, which I don't think is a lock by any means, I think it's very unlikely that he suddenly injects life into this suspect passing attack.
Andy Hart

When the offense struggles, do you think Brady's body language and in game demeanor is inspiring to the rest of the team? He just seems angry and frustrated to me. I know the issue is sometimes lack of cohesion and coordination with the WRs, but sometimes the issue is also that he just misses the throws. I think he needs to be more positive/cheerleading. Do you agree?
Bob Hattan

I think Brady does his best to be positive and cheer on his players. He does it on the practice field and the game field. Heck, he did it with Chad Ochocinco in the Super Bowl. But he's also a guy who knows what's going on and what it takes the win. He, like all of us, gets frustrated when things aren't going well or as planned. I'll be honest, I don't have a huge problem with Brady's on-field demeanor and I don't think it's adversely affecting the offense right now. He's been the same way for years, through a lot of offensive success and through a few stretches of struggles along with the way. Not sure you can ask/expect this leopard to change his spots at this point.
Andy Hart

With the passing game not doing very well, what are Brian Tyms chances of displacing someone on the 53 man roster? He did a fair job in preseason but does not appear to have much of a history with Tom Brady. Also, who do you feel is on the bubble when Brandon Browner returns?
Morris Hickok

I do think that Tyms will have a hard time cracking the roster. He doesn't have a working rapport with Brady and there is already a logjam at the receiver position that's seen one guy inactive as a healthy scratch in the first three games. A spot on the practice squad would seem more likely. Like you, I assume that Browner will be activated once his suspension ends. Therefore someone will have to be shipped out. Injuries are always a factor in this decision, but veteran special teamer Don Jones (now injured) couldn't be ruled out. One of the many bodies at the safety position might a candidate, except they've all been playing interesting roles. A surprising move might include someone at the receiver or running back position, but I don't really think that's going to happen.
Andy Hart

This question is being written after watching a horrible offensive showing against the Raiders. Only 3 games in, I'm concerned for the better teams we've yet to play, in the Bengals, Broncos, etc. Our offense this moment is not good enough to score with these teams. Why are we not in a no-huddle the whole game? We give our opponents time to sub, shift, set up and rest. We aren't surprising anyone by living in a huddle. Will this offense speed up or is this pace the one that will haunt us all season?
Don Blakeborough

What has happen to the no-huddle offence? It used to work so well in the past. It also seemed to get the team in rhythm. I think this would help. What do you think?
Kevin Mulholland

What people often fail to take into account with the no-huddle or hurry-up offense is that if you don't have successful plays it leads to quicker punts and more time on the field for your defense. Also, with people questioning how the complementary receivers are fitting within the offense and with Brady, I'm not sure rushing things and going without a huddle make a lot of sense for guys like Tim Wright, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell or others. Do I think that Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski would be OK speeding things up? Yes. But what about the rest of the guys? I don't think it makes sense to do that too often with the offensive limitations at this early point.
Andy Hart

The Patriots have been moving a lot of guys around on the offensive line. I was wondering who decides, for example, when Stork replaces Connolly at center in the middle of the game? Is it the offensive line coach or does Bill make that call?
Kyle Volo

In general, Belichick makes the call on all major decisions. Certainly replacing an offensive lineman would fall under that larger umbrella. Now, there is also the injury factor to take into account. Then it might be a decision by the medical staff. Obviously the position coach has some say and can voice an opinion in personnel matters, but in the end Belichick has the final say with those types of decisions, whether they come early in the week during game planning or on game day.
Andy Hart

I was just wondering is Brandon LaFell just a decoy when he's on the field? I mean he is the type of receiver we've lacking the few seasons as far as a potential down the field threat with jumping ability and big frame. In preseason Tyms looked pretty good as well but does it matter when Brady is locked in on Edelman? 
DeAndre Potlow

LaFell is not a deep threat or a guy who's going to get down the field with speed. He's a bigger receiver and doesn't have elite speed or quickness. He does have the size to fight for the ball down the field, but I would never describe him as a deep threat. I know Brady has been throwing a lot of passes to Edelman, and even he's voiced his desire to spread it around more, but I don't think he will just ignore better options if they become available. LaFell is certainly still working to find his role in his offense and build a relationship on the field with Brady, but I don't think he's a decoy.
Andy Hart

If teams are allowed a 53 man roster, then why do they have to have 7 inactives every week? It's not really a 53 man roster in that case.
Kyle L

Because that's the rule. Only 46 players can be active on game day. It's changed many times of the years and the expansion of rosters led to a game-day inactive list. Theoretically it allows for some young players to be on the roster and get time to develop, while it also allows for injured guys to remain on the 53-man roster while being replaced on the game day roster.
Andy Hart


It seems to me that the "Brady doesn't trust" thing has never been entirely accurate and makes him sound like a diva. Isn't it more the case that the guys who get the targets in a particular game are simply the guys who are first in Brady's read progressions - and that those progressions are based on who performs best in practicing the plays that are specific to that week's game plan (which is as much Josh as it is Tom)?*
*Maine Man

On some level that is certainly true. But it's hard to deny the numbers. It's even harder to deny what Brady himself said couple weeks ago. "I'm not going to look that way if I don't feel comfortable with that particular player," Brady said. That's a little different from the days when his favorite receiver was supposedly the open receiver. Do I think we make too much of the issue of Brady trusting his receivers and not throwing to certain guys? Yes. Do I think on some level it's an actual issue? Yes. The question is whether it's a big enough issue that it's holding the Patriots offense back right now. Or whether it can be fixed sooner rather than later.
Andy Hart

Logan Ryan has 6 INTs in his career and this is just his 2nd year. Clearly he is proving to be able to hold his own against some very good opposing receivers, but yet we continue to see Alfonso Dennard out on the field instead of him and he, at least from what I've seen, isn't having the same success as Ryan. Does the team not trust him to play him more or is it just a matter of development?
Doug Somers

First, interceptions are not necessarily an indication of how good a cornerback is. Many times they come on deflected balls or overthrows or other circumstantial plays. Obviously this email came in before Dennard missed the last two games to a shoulder injury. Ryan has played more. He didn't play all that well against the Raiders, though. And based on everything I've seen from the two players in my time covering games and practices, I still think that Dennard is a much better player than Ryan and worthy of the starting job when healthy. The coaches seem to agree with me.
Andy Hart

Any ideas as to why James White has been inactive for the first two games?
Sean Jessiman

Nope. He's not listed on the injury report, so it's not a health issue. The one thing that could be a factor that many have discussed is that the bigger-bodied Brandon Bolden is supposedly more valuable on special teams than the rookie running back. White didn't have a great preseason running the football, but he does have clear ability as a pass catcher and even a return man. I'd like to see him get a shot to display that, but so far it's not been in the cards given the veterans seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart in the backfield.
Andy Hart

Hello there, I am a firm believer that the Pats get better as they go, with that being said do you agree that the reason why we are not seeing other receivers get involved is because it's so early? Or do you think there is a chemistry problem? I know that Brady has trust in KT and LaFell is a nice big body to throw to. Do you agree that as the season progresses we will see more involvement?
Jamel Wilson

I do suspect that as the season progresses we will see more improvement and involvement in the offense. But I don't think the Patriots are holding anything back at this point. I think the passing game is a major work in progress, one that needs a lot more work and a lot more progress. I do think there are some issues with the overall timing and efficiency of the attack between the quarterback and his receivers. It will get better over time. Will that be good enough come January? Nobody knows the answer to that question at this tumultuous time.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, great work. Besides the problems with the offense, the D-line are showing some issues. Vellano and Chris Jones, they are really small bodies to play at DT/DE, why not bring back Richard Seymour (a real Patriot player) a veteran player to who already know NE, and he can play at same role that Kelly were playing. Please share your thoughts.
Lucas Carvalho

I do think there is a little bit of a lack of size and experienced talent on the defensive line. I have my doubts about the run defense if/when it faces more productive ground games. But I don't think that Seymour is a realistic option. He's been out of football for more than a year and said he didn't want to return to New England. I don't see that changing. I would like to see a player with his build, a guy like Tommy Kelly, on the front. That's why I still don't understand the decision to cut Kelly in August. Didn't make sense to me at the time and it doesn't make sense to me now.
*Andy Hart

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